Oct 20, 2011

State of Australian Cities 2011

Residents of Australia’s major cities are using less electricity, leaving their car in garage more often in favour of catching public transport, producing less household waste and raising children who are staying at home until an older age.

Those are a few of the trends detailed in the State of Australian Cities 2011 report which I’ve released today. Compiled by the Major Cities Unit within my Department, this latest ‘report card’ builds on last year’s inaugural publication, providing an even more comprehensive analysis of the progress and performance of the nation’s 18 biggest cities.

The 2010 publication generated enormous interest and has been fully down-loaded more than 575,000 times – I am sure this report will be of similar interest.

A summary of the key developments since the inaugural report is attached, with the full State of Australian Cities 2011 now available at: http://www.infrastructure.gov.au/infrastructure/mcu/soac.aspx

As well as giving us a better understanding of how our cities work, the report also identifies the specific initiatives of local councils and state planning authorities which are proving effective at promoting more productive, sustainable and liveable urban communities.

Through the Action Plan for Our Cities contained in this year’s Budget, the Gillard Labor Government is also helping to tackle the challenges all big and growing cities eventually confront.

Specifically, I am pleased to announce that states, territories and eligible councils can now submit an application for funding under the Liveable Cities Program – a key element of our Action Plan design to trial new, potential solutions to urban sprawl, congestion, a lack of affordable housing and carbon pollution.

The Program, initially worth $20 million, offers up to $500,000 for innovative planning and design initiatives and up to $4 million for demonstration projects.

For more information about the Program go to:


As one of the world’s most urbanised societies, Australia’s future economic prosperity and continuing social cohesion will depend largely on how successful we are at making our cities work better. Already they are home to three quarters of Australians and generate around 80 per cent of our national wealth.

This task is given even greater urgency by the looming long term challenges of climate change and a growing, ageing population. For instance, in the absence of a new approach, traffic congestion alone is set to cost Australian businesses and families more than $20 billion a year by the end of this decade.

But one thing is certain: building more productive, sustainable and liveable cities will require the involvement of and cooperation between all the levels of government from the local town hall up to and including the national parliament.

That’s why in addition to the State of the Cities report and the Action Plan, this Federal Labor Government has:

  • Commissioned Our Cities, Our Future: a National Urban Policy Framework which articulates the Commonwealth’s objectives and priorities for the nation’s major cities;
  • Committed $7.3 billion to modernise and extend urban passenger rail infrastructure – more than all our predecessors since Federation combined;
  • Established a National Smart Managed Motorways Trial to retrofit smart technology to improve traffic flows along congested motorways and outer city roads;
  • Placed the need for infrastructure planning reform on the agenda of COAG with the establishment of the National Planning Taskforce;
  • Required all state and territory governments to have strategic plans in place by 1 January 2012 for their capital cities as a condition of future Federal infrastructure funding.

Through a combination of committed political leadership, effective urban planning and a sustained investment in energy-efficient public transport, our cities can remain amongst the most productive, sustainable and liveable in the world.


Key changes in Australia’s Cities since 2010 Report:

  • There’s now emerging evidence of a major change in how people are getting around their communities, with per capita vehicle travel down by around one percentage point and aggregate travel beginning to stabilise.
  • The shift to public transport and active travel such walking and cycling has continued, with more than 11.5 million bicycles sold in the period between 2001 and 2010 – 2 million more than cars.
  • Net overseas migration has fallen by more than 25 per cent from 453,000 (2008) to 331,000 (2010).
  • Cities north of the Queensland/NSW border are growing faster than those to the south, an indication that the historical northward shift in Australia’s population shows no signs of abating.
  • Melbourne is growing faster than Sydney, having increased its population by more than 600,000 between 2001 and 2010 while Sydney’s grew by less than 450,000 over the same period.
  • The gap between housing supply and demand is general across Australia – a short fall of 200,000 new homes – but is particularly severe in Sydney.
  • The relatively uninterrupted trend since 1994 of fewer people per household has become confused in the last year suggesting that housing affordability may be encouraging young people to stay living in the family home longer or join share houses.
  • Labour force participation, a critical component of productivity growth, has in many cities stabilized or fallen over the last year.
  • The increasing number of women in paid employment has been a major driver of economic growth in Australia.
  • Unemployment has decreased slightly from 5.5 per cent to 5.1 per cent but there are still major differences between cities, ranging from less than 2 per cent in Darwin to more than 8 per cent in Wollongong.
  • This year Mining became Australia’s second largest industry after Finance as a proportion of GDP, with Manufacturing now in third place. But this does not mean manufacturing is in decline; rather that the rest of the economy is growing faster.
  • Since 2006, and for the first time since the keeping of accurate records, Australians have been consuming less energy and water while also cutting their household waste. Last year alone, energy consumption (mainly electricity) fell 1.2 percentage points.
  • Whilst cyclones, severe storms, floods and bushfires can have significant social, economic and environmental impacts on Australian cities, the biggest natural disaster threat – particularly in terms of loss of life – remains heatwaves.

The Liveable Cities Program

The Program is open to eligible applicants located in one the 18 Major Cities covered by the National Urban Policy. They are:

  • Sydney
  • Melbourne
  • Brisbane
  • Perth
  • Adelaide
  • Gold Coast-Tweed
  • Newcastle
  • Canberra-Queanbeyan
  • Wollongong
  • Sunshine Coast
  • Hobart
  • Geelong
  • Townsville
  • Cairns
  • Toowoomba
  • Darwin
  • Launceston
  • Albury-Wodonga